Recent Ziply internet outages caused by vandalism, local man charged

Daniel Gondek

Recurring internet outages in Boundary County for Ziply Fiber customers should be ended as a Bonners Ferry man is in jail on a felony charge of malicious injury to property for damaging around a dozen telephone/internet service pedestals.

Daniel Gondek, 29, is accused of causing damage in excess of $30,000 and causing service outrages that not only affected residents and businesses, but could easily have been critical. So widespread and varied are they, damages are still being assessed.

According to court documents, Bonners Ferry Police Sergeant Willie Cowell began the investigation January 20 after receiving a complaint made by Ziply Fiber personnel.

He photographed shoe and tire prints at several crime scenes, obtained surveillance video. Gondek denied any involvement, but the video later showed a rider on a bicycle, wearing clothing consistent with what Gondek wore while Cowell interviewed him and the person on camera was riding from the direction about a quarter mile away where a case of vandalism had just occurred.

After further investigation, a warrant was issued, and on Monday, January 25, Cowell and fellow BFPD officers Jason Trujillo and Malorie Stippich, Boundary County Sheriff’s deputy Travis Stolley and BCSO detective Caleb Watts gathered at the Cody Street residence where Gondek lives.

A five-gallon bucket was found shoved far underneath the porch. Fished out, it was found to be filled with cable bundles. Waiving his Miranda rights, Gondek again denied involvement, but said he’d found the cut cables and that he brought them home.

Several more loose cables and wire retaining plates were discovered in Gondek’s room, a milk crate full of more cables was found under a counter, and when it was moved, they found a softball sized pile of fine copper wire.

In the yard, they found his blue Kent bicycle, and the tread appeared to match tire tracks Cowell photographed earlier at the scene. On examination, the shoes Gondek was wearing also appeared a match for tracks Cowell had photographed at the scene of the January 20 vandalism.

Gondek was taken into custody..

The evidence collected was subsequently shown to Ziply Boundary County field technician Christopher Smith, who positively identified the wire and other evidence as having come from vandalized pedestals.

“I’d like to send a shout out to all the officers involved in this investigation,” Smith said today. “They all did a fantastic job and brought an end to something that could easily have been dangerous had it continued.”

According to the affidavit of probable cause, repairs to each pedestal could cost around $1,000, but those estimates don’t include the damages potentially lost through service service outages.

The vandalism knocked out service to most homes and businesses served by Ziply on the sound end of Bonners Ferry and up into Paradise Valley. Super One Foods and Sugar Plum Floral were just two businesses affected, and the outage knocked out the monitor circuits for both the City of Bonners Ferry water system and the BPA Paradise Valley Substation.

“Thanks to their prompt actions,” Smith said, “we brought the situation under control quickly and without having to learn how bad it could have been.”

Gondek remains in jail in lieu of $25,000 bond. Preliminary hearing is set for 1:30 p.m. Friday, February 5, before Judge Justin Julian.